This week’s Marvel Rundown spotlights two titanic titles! First up, after a tease during House of X #1, the showdown between the X-Men and the Fantastic Four is finally here. Does X-Men/Fantastic Four #1 deliver on the promise of that earlier encounter?
Then, with the new era of Marvel Star Wars comics in full swing, the publisher turns its attention to the dark lord of the Sith in Star Wars: Darth Vader #1! What new secrets will Vader uncover in the period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?
We’ve got discussion and reviews of both of those titles, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel titles for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!
X-Men/Fantastic Four #1
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Penciled by Terry Dodson
Inked by Rachel Dodson with Dexter Vines & Karl Story
Colored by Laura Martin
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Terry & Rachel Dodson
Joe Grunenwald: Marvel’s merry mutants and its First Family are finally going head-to-head for the future of Franklin Richards! What did you all think of the first issue of the X-Men/Fantastic Four miniseries?
Hussein Wasiti: I thought this was, no pun intended, absolutely fantastic. One of my favourite moments of House of X was the brief encounter between the Cyclops and the Fantastic Four, and this issue picked up on that thread in a really bombastic and exciting way. Chip Zdarsky has such a great grasp on these characters’ voices and it looked gorgeous too.
Chloe Maveal I keep worrying that eventually Zdarsky is going to let me down with these titles…and then I just end up loving them even more. And this crossover miniseries gave me all kinds of feelings as well as a deep satisfaction, with the number of subtle callbacks to ages-old FF/X-Men crossovers.
Samantha Puc: I feel like Zdarsky is uniquely positioned to write these characters based on his body of work, and it pays off in this first issue. I also really loved the art! This definitely sucked me in.
Grunenwald: Agreed on all counts. Zdarsky has fast become one of my favorite Marvel writers, and it’s a joy seeing him back with the FF characters he previously worked on in Marvel Two-in-One. Like Chloe, I also loved the callbacks, both in the story and visually, to the original X-Men vs. the Fantastic Four miniseries, right down to Magneto being back in his ridiculous ‘giant M’ costume again. The relationship between Kate Pryde and Franklin Richards is really nice to see, and introduced effectively for readers who might not be aware of the thirty-year-old story to which it calls back. Just solid work all-around.
Wasiti: What I most appreciated about this issue is that I think this the start of a seminal X-Men story, one that will pit the new status quo against the Marvel Universe at large. That’s something I’ve been wanting to see for months, and judging by the final page of the issue, it looks like it’ll be quite a showdown.
Maveal Oh god, the Kitty and Franklin portion of this issue was everything. Beginning at Xavier being the one to bring it up, and ending with Kitty completely understanding that Franklin needs to be the one to make the decisions for who and where we wants to be. It just felt like a very intimate moment for two characters that have a long-standing history done in a way that felt like an updated version from what we saw 30 years ago. I’m really just very here for seeing Kitty being her very empathetic self from a standpoint of “I’ve been there.” That’s feeling much more rare with Krakoa becoming what it is. (Yes, I am going to call her Kitty still dammit. I’m old and I’ve earned it.)
Grunenwald: We’ve seen a very different side of Kate in Marauders, so the way she was characterized in this issue felt like something of a return to the character we’ve known for years (which is not to say her characterization in the other title is bad; it’s just different).
Wasiti: I found the Kate and Franklin scenes to be quite a great contrast to the overall ultimately political story going on at the forefront. Despite these two different worldviews coming head to head, I like that Zdarsky was able to hone in onto the heart of why we like these characters.
Puc: I was almost surprised by the level of genuine emotion imbued in this issue, primarily in the scenes with Kate and Franklin. Given that this is a primarily political story, like you said, Hussein, it would have been easy to just skim the surface of the deeper emotions happening, but this creative team didn’t shy away, and I really appreciate that.
Wasiti: At this point I should expect Zdarsky to be provide such emotionally honest portrayals of these characters. He really is one of Marvel’s best writers.
Puc: That’s true; he is. I think, like Chloe said earlier, that I just constantly worry he’ll let me down, because there’s no way someone can be this good time after time. Everyone was excellently written in this issue, and I appreciated that no one involved in the main conflict really came off in a good light aside from Franklin and Val.
Grunenwald: I also really loved Sue’s ferocity during this issue. Her frustration over the whole situation was pitch-perfect.
Maveal: There was a great contrast there from what Franklin was experiencing with his FF family as well. The conversation with Ben where he questions whether his father is preventing him from getting better? And then the confirmation of that later on? I know Reed is a jerk and pulled this sort of nonsense before… but man, that was a lot. The overall message of having to pick sides when you just want to make your own decisions is HEAVY and sort of highlights the monster that the Krakoan initiative — and even family — could be.
Grunenwald: I know Reed Richards has been something of a monster in the past, but wow he really looks like a monster by the end of this comic.
Wasiti: With all the talk of mutants coming across as bad guys lately, I found it refreshing that even goody two-shoes Reed Richards can be a bit of a slimeball. Given the emotional scope of the story, it’s good to see that Zdarsky isn’t painting this as a black and white story.
Grunenwald: Zdarsky absolutely deserves a lot of praise, but so does everyone else who worked on this issue. Terry & Rachel Dodson turn in some of the best work I’ve ever seen from them, which is saying something. I’m used to a lot of cheesecake in their work, but the visuals in this issue had very little of that, and conveyed the intensity of the situation on all fronts beautifully. And it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway that Laura Martin‘s colors were pretty perfect as always.
Wasiti: I can’t exactly recall how long it’s been since I’ve read a comic by the Dodsons, but it’s definitely been a good long while. Their work here is pretty great, setting the story visually apart from other X-titles, but capturing the heart and soul of what makes these characters work. And I agree with your assessment, Joe. Laura freaking Martin, man.
Puc: Everything about this issue felt fresh and interesting and nuanced and good. Martin’s colors really made everything pop.
Maveal: And how! Dodson’s art and Martin’s colors both added extra oomph to something that was already packing it pretty hard.
Grunenwald: Was there anything here that didn’t work for anyone, or that gave you pause? There was nothing for me personally.
Wasiti: I didn’t really have a problem with anything. At all. Am I just in a great mood, or did I read a brilliant comic?
Maveal: Literally nothing. It was surprisingly flawless, which I feel is something rare with the amount of Marvel titles out right now.
Puc: I have no critical feedback, which perhaps makes me a bad critic?
Grunenwald: I think we should take victories when they’re handed to us, and this book absolutely feels like a victory. Was there anything else anyone wanted to add or call out that they liked before we all tell people to buy this?
Maveal: I can’t think of anything else to really add. It’s a fantastic comic and Zdarsky, Dodson, and Martin seem really off with a bang on this first issue. This is a MUST BUY from me.
Wasiti: This is a MEGA BUY. If you haven’t read any of the current X-Men books or are not caught up with any Fantastic Four, I think this is the perfect place to jump on. It’s gorgeous and such a fun time.
Puc: BUY IT, y’all!
Grunenwald: None of you are wrong. This book is excellent, and well-worth everyone’s time. It’s an ULTIMATE BUY for me.
Final Verdict: It’s an overwhelming BUY verdict for X-Men/Fantastic Four #1! Get thee to a comic shop!
Star Wars: Darth Vader #1
Written by Greg Pak
Illustrated by Raffaele Ienco
Colored by Neeraj Menon
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by In-Hyuk Lee
Reviewed by Hussein Wasiti
We’ve had about fifty issues worth of Darth Vader comics in the last five years, so it’s gotten a little hard to get excited about yet another volume of the series. I am pleased to report that this looks to be an interesting take on the character.
If anything, the overall plotting and execution of this story is so emblematic of the influence that Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca had on the character when they first launched the book. New creative team Greg Pak and Raffaele Ienco borrow much of the visual language from the Gillen/Larroca run, but the new team does enough to set it apart from the original run that it doesn’t feel unoriginal. There’s more visual variety on the page, with thinner, black panels and red colouring used to set the flashbacks apart from the present-day story. Pak and Ienco build and build the contrast between the two time periods in a really smart way with some pages being entirely dominated by red panels. It effectively paints Vader’s perception of these events but also manages to put you in the character’s head, since everything he sees through that mask of his is red.
Pak doesn’t seem to be entirely confident in having the story be as silent and contemplative as its character. Early in the issue, Vader commandeers a droid to accompany him as he travels throughout the galaxy. I realised pretty quickly that this droid was not only going to exposit a lot of information to the reader, but they would be doing most of the talking throughout the issue as Vader utters only a few words at a time. It’s not the wrong way to approach things, but I’m of the mind that a Vader comic should be as still as Vader himself. I hate to bring the comparison up again, but Gillen knew how to balance having fun characters while also telling a stark Darth Vader story.
Ienco truly excels with his work here. He perfectly captures the figure of Vader and manages to evoke a lot of emotion on those still flashback images to the days of Anakin Skywalker. There’s a couple of brief action scenes which I think he really nailed. I hadn’t heard of Ienco prior to reading this comic but I think he’s fantastic. Neeraj Menon’s colouring helps seal the deal, providing a more grounded tone to this story.
I recommend this. I have some issues with the amount of exposition coming out of the droid character and just the visual noise they generate, but otherwise I had a pretty good time with this. And that last page is pretty interesting for fans of the prequels. I’m giving this a BUY.
Final Verdict: Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 gets a BUY!
- Ant-Man #1
- First and foremost: I am so here for Stinger taking her dad to task for his nonsense! This debut issue features some excellent dialogue from Zeb Wells and art that feels true to where Scott is in his life, thanks to Dylan Burnett and colorist Mike Spicer. Letterer Cory Petit really shines, though, as Scott attempts to find a missing colony of bees. The end of Ant-Man #1 has me invested in whatever happens next, and even though I have… a hard time… with swarms of bugs (even illustrated ones), I really loved this. — SP
- Captain America: The End #1
- If you’re a fan of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s old old Captain America and everything it stands for, then this may be as rewarding for you as it was for me. Eric Larsen is clearly getting his Kirby on even from page one with over-the-top narration boxes and very angular character designs. But even with the story, there is a strong homage to the Kings themselves as Larsen is not afraid to throw in the raw messages of perseverance and hope that we’ve come to expect from Cap — and with the apocalypse having happened and an infection spreading rapidly that turns everyday people into Red Skulls, that hope is something necessary. If you have no idea what I’m talking talking about when I say there’s a Kirby/Simon vibe (first of all, shame on you), then think Captain America living in They Live meets Invasion of the Bodysnatchers meets Dawn of the Dead world. Yeah. It’s awesome. And as someone who has, thusfar, had some serious problems with the The End series’, this one is entirely worth it. I will say however, there’s something to be said for replacing Joe Simon in the credits with Stan Lee. To call this an “unfortunate oversight” would be a understatement. — CM
- Immortal Hulk: Great Power #1
- As someone who fondly remembers the ‘Spider-Hulk’ of Web of Spider-Man #70, I was looking forward to reading this one-shot, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Writer Tom Taylor crafts a strong one-and-done tale that gets to the heart of both Spider-Man and Bruce Banner in surprising ways, and artists Jorge Molina, Adriano Di Benedetto, Roberto Poggi, and David Curiel present moments of excitement, heavy emotion, and genuine humor equally well. This is a great comic. — JG
- If you looked at the cover to this issue and dismissed it was dumb, you wouldn’t be wrong. However, you just judged a book by its cover, and for that you should be ashamed. This was a fun little one-shot that gives a glimpse into the dark horror that turning into the Hulk brings to your life, especially to a character so expressive and relatable as Spider-Man. It hits the right emotional notes, and can be pretty funny. It’s oversized so the price point might be too much for some, but if it isn’t a problem for you I’d highly recommend this. — HW
- Marauders #7
- Gerry Duggan is joined by Stefano Caselli for this new arc, and I must say this is an immediate improvement. This has been a great and fun book from the get-go, but the art was always a little bit of a letdown. Caselli’s characters are sharp and his action scenes are clear, and it’s great to have him join the team. Emma and the crew of the Marauder have no idea what happened to Kate at the hands of Sebastian Shaw at the end of the last issue, so it’s only a matter of time before things blow up. — HW
Next week, Nebula stars in her first solo series!